The Race Question  

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"Claude Lévi-Strauss was one of the architects of the first UNESCO declaration on race (1950) and author of Race and History (1952) and Race and Culture."--Sholem Stein

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Race Question is a UNESCO statement issued on 18 July 1950 following World War II. The statement included both a scientific debunking of race theories and a moral condemnation of racism. It suggested in particular to "drop the term 'race' altogether and speak of "ethnic groups."

Signed by some of the leading researchers of the time, in the field of psychology, biology, cultural anthropology and ethnology, it questioned the foundations of scientific racist theories which had become very popular at the turn of the 20th century, alongside eugenics.

These racist theories had been a main influence of the Nazi racial policies and eugenics programme. The original statement was drafted by Ernest Beaglehole, Juan Comas, L. A. Costa Pinto, Franklin Frazier, sociologist specialised in race relations studies, Morris Ginsberg, founding chairperson of the British Sociological Association, Humayun Kabir, writer, philosopher and Education Minister of India twice, Claude Lévi-Strauss, one of the founders of ethnology and leading theorist of cultural relativism, and Ashley Montagu, anthropologist and author of The Elephant Man: A Study in Human Dignity, who was the rapporteur.

The text was then revised by Ashley Montagu following criticisms submitted by Hadley Cantril, E. G. Conklin, Gunnar Dahlberg, Theodosius Dobzhansky, author of Genetics and the Origin of Species (1937), L. C. Dunn, Donald Hager, Julian Huxley, first director of UNESCO and one of the many key contributors to neo-Darwinian synthesis, Otto Klineberg, Wilbert Moore, H. J. Muller, Gunnar Myrdal, author of An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy (1944), Joseph Needham, a biochemist specialist of Chinese science, and geneticist Curt Stern.

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